Curious anthropology

July 2, 1999

As parents of a 15-week-old boy, we found Gabriele vom Bruck's assertion that academic women who cannot negotiate equal terms of domestic labour with their partners should "stop complaining" and replace the man with a housekeeper/nanny patronising and unhelpful ("Keeping mum", THES, June 18). It does not take a PhD in anthropology to deduce the following:

* Even where domestic labour is totally shared, one parent may need to miss a staff meeting to nurse a sick child

* The reason why one "never" hears of young fathers who devote themselves full time to child care to let their wives finish a degree or book is that it does not happen very often

* The instititutional discrimination against women in academe, complaints about which vom Bruck finds so tiresome, is fact not fiction, which is why only 9.2 per cent of professors are female

* You cannot rail against one form of discrimination (people allegedly being refused research funding following career breaks for reasons other than motherhood) by engaging in another (against academic mothers).

For an anthropologist working in a profession dedicated to the nurturing of the next generation, such misanthropy - albeit directed primarily towards academic women and their breastfed babies - is curious to say the least.

Sally Johnson Department of linguistics Lancaster University Frank Finlay Department of modern languages Bradford University

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